The construction industry has taken a step into the future by adopting a nanomaterial enhanced asphalt for the re-surfacing of a 250km section of motorway. In doing so, the road building company will produce a surface with improved resistance and longer lifespan.

Connecting Milan and Turin, Italy’s newly re-laid A4 will not only include the latest nanotechnology but will also become part of the circular economy through the reuse of substantial amounts of asphalt as well as recycled hard plastics from items such as fruit crates, toys, and litter bins.

As Oliver Haill reports for the financial journal Proactive Investors, “The asphalt used for the resurfacing of this motorway section … will re-use 70% of milled material from existing pavement … reducing the use of new natural aggregates to only 30%.” Adding that the use of nanomaterials, “… will also reduce energy consumption by 90mln kilowatt hours and CO2 emissions by 18.4mln kgs compared to standard asphalt.”

The contract to re-surface the road was won by the Italian company Iterchimica alongside motorway management and infrastructure specialists at ASTM Group who will use the nanomaterial technology in an asphalt supermodifier product called Gipave.

This is a particularly important milestone for the construction industry at a time when it is necessary to both reduce costs while still striving to lower human impact on the environment.

As Giulio Cesareo, CEO of Directa Plus, the company providing this version of nanotechnology-assisted asphalt notes, “Local, regional and national governments are increasingly focused on both value for money and reducing carbon footprints.” Explaining that, “[Nanomaterials additives] can improve performance and reduce environmental costs.”

The new contract represents further belief in nanotechnology’s advantages over conventional raw materials for use in construction and infrastructure projects.

Italian Design – Practical Nanotechnology

Italian officials have already shown their support for improved construction materials through the application of nanotechnology in the road surface of the new Genoa San Giorgio Bridge in Genoa. When the old bridge tragically collapsed in 2018, the world began to question the durability of Italian construction techniques. However, this innovative technology, which contains both carbon nanomaterials and a special type of “technically-selected plastic which is usually sent to waste-to-energy plants” has restored faith in the raw materials used in infrastructure projects. It is also more environmentally friendly than traditional techniques.

“This is an Italian technology to build green, high-tech, highly resistant, eco-sustainable and 100% recyclable road pavements,” explains Iterchimica’s CEO Federica Giannattasio. “It generates environmental and economic benefits for users and is a product that helps to meet Green and Circular Economy standards, UN Sustainable Development Goals and the COP 21 Paris Agreement.”

UK Nanomaterial Testing Success

Elsewhere, nanotechnology has also been successfully applied in a 2019 trial project at Curbridge in the UK, where a section of road “increased the lifespan of the surface by up to 70% compared to conventional resurfacing methods”.

This trial was then expanded to include the application of nanomaterials into two sections of a major route into Oxford which carries as many as 10,000 vehicles a day. While only covering a 700m stretch of road so as to be able to compare with traditional asphalt applied elsewhere, the nano-enhanced road surface aided recycling as well as improving longevity.

“This is an important trial to further test the benefits that this innovative material can bring,” said Phil Raven, Head of Technical Design for Milestone Infrastructure - the contractor responsible for the road. “As we look for new ways to reduce carbon emissions within highways maintenance, developing materials that last longer is an important part of our plan towards net zero. Not only can this lead to longer term carbon reduction, it has the potential to reduce disruption to road users and achieve long-term savings for highway authorities. This trial project demonstrates the benefits of industry collaboration with a highway authority that is committed to trialling new innovations.”

Nanotechnology is already widely used in other parts of the construction industry, such as concrete, cement, paints, varnishes, specialised glass, and high-spec plastics. But if all goes as expected, then nanomaterials may soon be an obvious raw material for use in asphalt production. Helping to lay a path for the continuing nanotechnology revolution.

To learn more about other products which have been boosted with nanomaterials read: Enhanced Materials and Products with Four Clever Nanotechnologies, How Nanomaterials are Made and What that Means for Plastics or visit NANO CHEMI GROUP.

Photo credit: Spencer Selover, Steven Arenas on Pexels, Jamar Penny on Unsplash, Matthew Henry, & FreePik